Review: Devo Live In Vancouver, BC

Review of Devo's Vancouver show at the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday June 26th, Devo play their next concert on June 28th in Oakland, CA

It’s been nearly 3 years since Devo last played in Vancouver at the Vogue, where the group performed a veritable greatest hits set. Audiences have come to expect these types of performances from groups like Devo – tickets never cost less than 50 dollars,so those who attend are either die-hards, or casual “Whip It” fans with disposable income. Devo’s June 26thshow aimed to please the former, and for anyone familiar with their demos and early videos, it did not disappoint.

Earlier this year, original Devo guitarist Bob Casale (aka Bob 2) passed away suddenly, months after the group’s earliest demo recordings had been compiled as Hardcore DEVO I + II. As both acknowledgement of these releases and a way to raise funds for Casale’s family, Mothersbaugh and crew organized a 10-date tour to perform this early material, with Vancouver as the only Canadian stop. In keeping with the pre-1980 theme demos, the show began with Bob and Mark Mothersbaugh tossing packages of cigarettes into the audience, because everyone would be smoking if it were 30 years earlier. This led to Mark using his vocoder to mimic a heavy smoker’s voice, which turned into 1976’s “Mechanical Man”.

Devo deserves credit for not pandering to the audience in any sort of way, and while there were audience calls for later songs throughout the set, the band chose not to acknowledge them. While many were off-put by the band’s decision to start the set off by playing on chairs, it was an intentional jab at their age that led to a mid-set costume change and brothers Bob and Mark running around the stage for the remainder of the set. It was during the latter half that casual fans got the closest thing to ‘hits’ – “Jocko Homo”, “Gut Feeling” and their infamous cover of “Satisfaction”. Despite this, the lesser known songs were performed with equal amounts of gusto. Some may have left confused, but it’s unlikely anyone was disappointed.

The night ended with a geriatric Booji Boy fretting around the stage on an elderly person’s walker, before sitting down and closing the set out. It was the perfect ending to a completely unique Devo set, and one that will almost certainly never be repeated again. RIP Bob 2.

Evan McDowell

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